Sub-zero temperatures, minimal sunlight and icy roads aren’t usually the ideal conditions for a 24-hour marathon, but four Inuvik athletes showed that was merely an illusion as they completed a 24-hour race held across the planet on Nov. 7.
Normally, the “World’s Toughest Mudder” competition is a single event, albeit one that moves around, where the most dedicated runners and athletes make an annual pilgrimage to compete. This year, the competition was supposed to be in Dallas, Texas, but went digital to prevent further transmission of the Covid-19 virus.
Which meant the athletes, Dave Urquhart, Stephanie Leduc, Geo Pascal and Amelie Mainguy-Deslandes, who would have been running in the 20-to-30C Texas sun instead were enduring -10C temperatures in Inuvik. But they didn’t skip a beat.
“The coolest part about it you get to grind it out and connect with people and experience something quite unusual that you might not experience for any other reason,” said Urquhart, who organized the team. “I’m really thankful I had this group of people to share it with, it was great.
“And thankful to be able to do it in town.”
While normally a 24-hour death race combining a traditional obstacle course inter-weaved with eight kilometres of running track, because athletes were competing remotely the team had to get creative for their obstacles, using stairs, equipment and other odds and ends around the Midnight Sun Complex.
From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the team ran laps throughout town, picking their favourite streets and paths, but as the day raged on and the temperatures plummeted into the night, they finished the second 13-hour portion of the race at the MSC.
“One of the obstacles we had, we had to do a challenge listening to the song Baby Shark, and do a push-up every time you heard the word ‘shark’,” said Geo Pascal. “There’s different types of Baby Shark you can listen to, from metal, to country, to Christmas…
“Once you hit the 12-hour mark, everything just shuts down. Your feet swell up, and things you wouldn’t even think start to hurt, never mind trying to stay awake for 12 hours.
“For me, especially this was a challenge because before this I never really ran more than five kilometres. Then I started hanging out with Steph and Dave and next you know we’re running for 24-hours.”
As all four were already in incredibly good physical health to be able to considering taking a contest like this on, Leduc noted the race was more of an endurance-test than a fitness one. But it took several months of training to get to the point where they could survive it.
“We did a lot of group training,” said Leduc. “We ran a lot around Boot Lake, we ran in town. We would get together and do so outside training in the summer. A lot of running, a lot of push-ups, a lot of squats. Some of our workouts were an hour-and-a-half to two hours.
“We’re always constantly training, part of our lifestyle is being fit. This was a little bit more insane than all of us, but we all got convinced to do it.”
To keep up their pace, the team combined their grit with a touch of nutritional science. As the night wore on, the racers would find themselves devouring nutrition bar, pizza, bacon, instant noodles or other high calorie food after each lap to keep their bodies fuelled. Urquhart noted the human body is only capable of absorbing 60-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour during exercise, so it made their dietary choices far simpler.
Now in recovery mode, the fearsome foursome — most on their first time, aside from Urquhart who’s now done the race four times — say they can’t wait to do it again, regardless of whether it’s back to the normal gathering or handled digitally like this year. Urquhart said he’s already got his ticket.
“Hopefully we can all meet up and go to Nevada next year,” said Urquhart. “I think all of us have our own personal goals. This part for me I consider kind-of off-season, because training for an ultra is very different than training for anything else.
“So we’ll see Geo doing 400-pound dead lifts out there, and I’m going to try and put a little bit of muscle back on my frame. In June, there’s some really great 24-hour obstacle course races. There’s one in Canada called the platinum rig race in June.
“Everyone here doesn’t know that they’re going, but they might be.”